Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, or as I prefer to call it: Saigon.
The city has taken off and really grown into an impressive place recently. It is a large city made up of districts, and is filled with heavy traffic and motorcycles everywhere. I wouldn’t consider this a walking city that you could easily tour on your own. Your best bet is to book a tour-guided excursion for the entire day and not try to do the driving yourself.
Consider a tour that includes lunch at a local restaurant so that you can sample the flavors of Vietnam. We booked an all day bus tour that covered much of the major attractions in the city. We would have liked to have seen more of Saigon, but unfortunately, we were only here for one short day. Humm….guess we’ll just need to come back!
Part of what makes this city so fascinating to me is how many of the men, women, and children dress. It is very hot and humid outside, yet it is common to see men in suits or traditional garments, women in gorgeous long dresses, and children in heavy school uniforms. It is a bit like stepping back in time and I found the local people to be very stylish, classy, and beautiful. You will see more casual clothing in the shops and vending sections of town. The classic Vietnamese Conical Hat, also known as the Asian rice hat, is seen all over and is a popular souvenir for tourists.
Be sure to include the following attractions when choosing the right day tour:
The National History Museum: Here you will be treated to a delightful water-puppet show and also get to view artifacts and pottery while learning more about the rich history of this wonderful country.
Notre Dame Cathedral: This is a spectacular church that can not be missed. It was established by French colonists and I was amazed to learn that there was such a large French influence in Vietnam. For more information visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre-Dame_Cathedral_Basilica_of_Saigon
The French Colonial Post Office: Another gorgeous building that was built when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the late 19th century. It’s lovely inside and almost looked like it had a British influence as well (in my opinion). Near by, check out City Hall and the Theatre Building, also crafted with French inspired architecture.
The Sea Goddess Temple in Chinatown: You will immediately smell the burning incense of this lovely pagoda-style temple, which is also known as Ba Thien Hau Temple. You will see people praying and beautifully dressed women both inside and outside of the temple.
Rice Plantations and Fields: If you take a guided tour by bus, it is very likely that you will pass by many of these beautiful fields as you pass through the districts into the city. Remember to look for the famous Vietnamese conical hats that most of the field workers will be wearing to protect them from the sun.
Independence Palace: The architecture and interior design of this building will be like stepping back into the 1970’s although construction began in 1962. Be sure to visit the basement headquarters to see the rotary telephones, typewriters, mess kitchen, large computer-communication rooms and bunkers. There is so much to learn about Vietnam’s rich history here. For more visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Palace
It was a whirlwind trip on our one day in Vietnam. I truly hope to return again someday to see more of this remarkable country. Until next time, “tiếng chào nhau” or goodbye!